But Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who has stated that the Lakers do not want to break up the roster, thinks Johnson’s comments were intended to be more inspirational than literal.
“Unfortunately, a well-known commentator made some comments before our fourth game in Dallas about breaking up the team,” Kupchak said. “I think that’s what fueled speculation that this team should be broken up. I think that commentator was trying to inspire our players, but a lot of the fans didn’t see it that way.”
Johnson alluded in particular to L.A. deciding between one of its two seven-footers (Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) and trading the other, but Kupchak is well aware of the major advantage the Lakers have with the combination of length and skill between Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom.
“Talented big players are always at a premium,” Kupchak continued. “You can go through college rosters, and go to the Portsmouth venue, which showcases the 64 best college seniors in the country each year, and rarely do you see a player 6-10 or above there. Everybody’s between 5-11 and 6-8. The big players are just hard to come by.”
In other words, L.A.’s not outwardly looking for a trade, particularly involving its bigs. In fact, with Kupchak and his staff spending much of their time in recent weeks focusing on college and European players in advance of June 23rd’s NBA Draft, the lack of quality big men has been quite obvious.
“There are not a lot of really talented big players in the draft,” he explained. “Some of the players from Europe may be higher picks than people think. That’s not unusual, big guys are always hard to come by, I just thought there was a lot less size than usual.”
That said, is there any less of a need for quality post players with the rules and development of the game in recent years changing to a degree? With perimeter players benefiting from rules preventing hand checking and holding on the perimeter, with eight seconds to get the ball past half court in an attempt to speed the game up?
In a word… no.
In more (of Kupchak’s) words… “I don’t think it diminishes the need for big players that are talented at all. I think given the opportunity, all 30 NBA coaches would prefer big skilled players to small skilled players.”
Big, skilled players like those on the Lakers’ roster.
“We really like the core group and they’re likely to stay together,” Kupchak concluded. “We think it’s still a team that can contend for a championship, and it’s unlikely that we’ll look to break up this team during the offseason.”